Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is battling for another term in office in the parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14, but he faces a tough challenge from a united opposition alliance amid a severe inflation crisis that has eroded his popularity.
Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, has announced a series of stimulus measures to boost the economy and ease the pain of soaring prices, which reached a 40-year high of 85.5% in October before easing slightly to 57.4% in March.
He has also blamed external factors and enemies for the economic woes and vowed to bring inflation down to single digits by the end of the year. He has defended his unorthodox policy of cutting interest rates despite high inflation, saying it would spur growth and investment.
However, many analysts and economists have warned that Erdogan’s policies are unsustainable and risk further weakening the Turkish lira, which has lost more than 40% of its value against the US dollar since the start of 2021.
They have also argued that Erdogan’s stimulus package, which includes energy subsidies, a doubling of the minimum wage and pension increases, as well as early retirement for more than two million people, will fuel inflation and widen the budget deficit.
The main opposition alliance, known as the Table of Six, has pledged to reverse Erdogan’s economic policies and restore fiscal discipline and central bank independence. They have also promised to improve democracy and human rights, which they say have deteriorated under Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
The alliance consists of six parties from across the political spectrum, ranging from center-left to right-wing. They have yet to announce their presidential candidate, but polls suggest that they could pose a serious threat to Erdogan’s re-election bid.
According to a survey by Metropoll in March, Erdogan would receive 41.1% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election, while his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), would get 42.6%. The other two candidates would get 7.2% each.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes in the first round, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders two weeks later. In that scenario, Kilicdaroglu would beat Erdogan by 51.9% to 48.1%, according to Metropoll.
In the parliamentary election, which will be held on the same day as the presidential one, Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), would get 44.8% of the votes, while the Table of Six would get 45.9%, according to Metropoll.
This means that neither bloc would secure a majority in the 600-seat parliament and would need to seek support from smaller parties or independent lawmakers to form a government.
Erdogan’s popularity has been declining in recent years due to various factors, including his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his foreign policy interventions in Syria and Libya, his crackdown on dissent and media freedom, and his strained relations with Western allies.
But it is the inflation crisis that has hit ordinary Turks hardest and could prove decisive in the elections. Many people are struggling to afford basic goods and services, such as food, rent, transport and health care.
The opposition alliance has tried to capitalize on this discontent and portray Erdogan as out of touch with reality and unable to solve the country’s problems. They have also accused him of corruption and nepotism and called for a change of leadership.
Erdogan, however, remains confident of his victory and has mobilized his loyal base with nationalist and religious rhetoric. He has also tried to discredit his opponents as traitors and terrorists who are backed by foreign powers.
The elections are expected to be highly polarized and contentious, with both sides accusing each other of fraud and intimidation. The outcome could have significant implications for Turkey’s future direction and stability, as well as its role in regional and international affairs.